So, I saw this picture on Open Mind Yoga’s Facebook page this morning:
“Dependent?” No way – I looked again to see if I missed the letters “i-n” before “dependent.” No Joy. The yoga happy face of words was telling me that I was Sweet, Peaceful, Witty and Dependent. I clicked on “share” to paste the picture on my wall and wrote out the four words that described me. With the exception of “dependent.” I changed it to “independent.” I lied.
I didn’t want to own the word dependent. Not even in the jest of a silly word-search personality test. I didn’t want anyone to associate that word with me – ever.
“Dependent” has such a negative connotation in our culture. Dependent means “needy” or “pathetic” in the colloquial or more formally, “determined or conditioned by another” in Merriam-Webster.
Determined or conditioned by another. Now, I wonder if that is such a bad thing and if independence is such a high ideal for which we should be striving.
Instantly, I think of my favorite book of all time in which Gregory David Roberts, the author, states, “We know who we are and define what we are by references to the people we love and our reasons for loving them.”
I love that line. It makes me want to take my life and make it into a grid: family, friends, lovers – and plot myself on it. Then, I’ll add an overlay of hopes, heartbreaks, fears, emotions, dreams, truths, lies. This grid will be the key to understanding me – like a tightly woven tapestry – so simple in its elemental form, and so intricate when all the parts are brought together to form the whole.
I am dependent. I’m defined by who I love and my reasons for loving them. I need people and influences in my life to understand myself – don’t we all?
We exist in relation to our surroundings. Our stories are interwoven with those around us to such an extent that a lack of love in our life is just as strongly contributing a factor in our identity as a plethora of love.
Maybe you disagree.
I would challenge you to read the obituary section of your local paper. You’ll see a snapshot of someone’s life summarized into 300 words or less, all listing husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters – people defined once and for all by who they loved/who loved them. Sure, there’s other information in there – illustrious career accomplishments, perhaps, but that never comes in lieu of family.
Now, I’m not going to get into if its good or bad to be close with your family – I’m just saying it is a reference point. You have a reason for how you feel about the people who are in your life and the people who are not in your life.
So, I guess dependent isn’t really a “bad” word. Honestly, the happiest times in my life, I’ve allowed myself to depend on others around me. For example, when I lived in Tijuana, I really depended on people to help me learn Spanish and to understand a new culture. I was like a child, learning everything about this new and unfamiliar place by my interactions with the people around me. I let go of my fierce pride and humbled myself. I put myself in a situation where it was ok to need others.
I lived in the moment. Sure, I had bad days, but there was an undeniable underlying happiness in my soul.
We are taught to value independence, to take care of ourselves, but I wonder if it would be better for us to instead value each other. To allow ourselves to need each other.
I’ll take the first step away from being independent and say:
I need you. I define myself by how we fit together – and where we feel discord – and what I do about that.
I’m not an entity in and of myself, but a part of a whole.
And I’m sorry I lied about it on Facebook.